By Indiewire | Indiewire January 20, 2004 at 2:00AM
Too Festive for Its Own Good? Park City Swells With Partiers
by Eugene Hernandez and Wendy Mitchell
"What are you doing later," I asked the star of a big Sundance film during a brief morning conversation this weekend here in Park City. "Getting over this major hangover," the young star said in a low, gravely voice. Celebrities certainly have many opportunities to party in Park City at sponsored houses and exclusive gatherings. For proof, visit the pages of Wireimage.com. Paris Hilton is getting cozy with one of the Backstreet Boys at a sponsored condo, while Courteney Cox and David Arquette are on the red carpet, and Liz Phair is posing in front of a GM truck. But what about the rest of us?
Indeed there are many, many hotspots around town where celebrants can bounce to the apparent party song of Sundance, Outkast's "Hey Ya!" Yet, while Sundance has delivered a solid crop of new American films over the weekend, including a terrific selection of new docs, it's the nightly unofficial parties that have consistently faltered. Case in point are soirees at Easy Street, a venue that Premiere Magazine rented out for the week, and Harry O's, where Blender is presenting nightly music performances. Attendees invited to film parties at the Premiere Magazine site over the weekend were rudely grilled at the door before being allowed entrance to a bar where they were forced to buy their own drinks. Meanwhile, over at Harry O's and the adjoining Buddha Lounge, immense crowds swelled nightly for the parties and midnight concerts, making the sidewalks impassable.
"Who are all these fucking people?," exclaimed one New York producer, referring to the mobs on Main St. over the weekend.
Getting into a party can be a major challenge, even if you are on the list. An email invite for tonight's Variety "10 to Watch" celebration says that the party starts at 7 p.m., but encourages attendees to "arrive at 6:15 for a good spot." A planner for an anticipated Monday night fiesta admitted that more than 1,200 RSVP's had already been received by Sunday, for an event that would hold just a few hundred.
The more than 800 laminates distributed for the Cinetic/Diesel party at the crammed Easy Street site created an uncomfortably crowded party. Smart attendees staked out a spot downstairs alongside the large group from "Napolean Dynamite," who were celebrating a deal with Fox Searchlight.
Doing it right over the weekend were organizers of Saturday's Sundance Channel/Court TV bash at the Riverhorse, which was lively but not overcrowded, and the Discovery Network party at Wahso on Sunday, which offered terrific food and a warm environment. PBS offered tasty snacks and comfortable networking during its party at the Filmmaker Lodge on Friday. The new Queer Lounge, which boasts a sign welcoming straight folks as well, has proven a welcome hangout. TLA's party at the site Saturday was crowded but classy with great food, and Sunday saw an energetic group dancing late Sunday.
After hours, insiders have been gathering at this year's Speakeasy, a venue near Main St. that requires a business card-sized pass for admittance after midnight. Word got out about the site Sunday, drawing a large crowd that crammed into a hallway leading to the entrance. Hired venue staff yelled aggressively at guests, at which point many in the line gave up and decided to call it a night. [Eugene Hernandez]
With their trip to Sundance 2004, things are a little bit different than past jaunts to Park City for documentary directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. These two are known for their past co-directing efforts, "Brother's Keeper" and "Paradise Lost," both of which played at Sundance and were later self-distributed in a very DIY fashion. The directors are no longer neophytes passing out buttons on Main St.
"Now we're veterans and we have a team, we have a different kind of attitude. As much as we're going to be working, I think we'll be a little more relaxed than we were in the past," Sinofsky told indieWIRE a few days before the festival started.
This year, the pair are at the festival with a monster, literally. Their 2-hour, 20-minute documentary "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" will have its premiere on Wednesday, with other screenings on Thursday and Friday. If you're picturing some lame promo video with a little "Behind the Music" thrown in, then you're forgetting Berlinger and Sinofsky's reputation. This film may have started as a "behind the scenes making an album" documentary, but it turned out to chronicle the band in group therapy, exploring new songwriting techniques, and wondering about their future as frontman James Hetfield suddenly went to rehab.
"The film gods were smiling on us," says Sinofsky of the turn of events. It's an exploration of the creative process of a band that has sold more than 90 million albums worldwide. The result is a must-see for doc fans, Metallica fans, and anyone in between.
Berlinger and Sinofsky don't really have to worry much about landing a distributor with this one. They are already in advanced talks with several companies, from small indies to studio specialty divisions, and hope to announce the deal during Sundance. Metallica owns 100 percent of the documentary, and will put up the P&A for the company that will work with Berlinger's Third Eye Films to release it theatrically. It will be a service deal that gives the band the lion's share of the profits (and control over how the film is marketed). Both directors say the final product is about 99.7 percent their cut. "I hope people aren't cynical about the film and the fact that they'd paid for it. It was the most creative freedom we've had," Berlinger continues.
Sinofsky adds, "[Metallica] believed that we were going to tell the story. The mantra from James [Hetfield] and Lars [Ulrich] was, 'It has to be honest, it has to be the truth.' They may have been relieved that we weren't whitewashing things." [Wendy Mitchell]